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tedd's avatar

What's up with my memory issues lately?

Asked by tedd (14013 points ) November 9th, 2012

My every day memory has been seemingly slipping for the past few years. It is often simple stuff like where I parked my car in a big parking lot, or where I left my wallet around the house. It’s always been annoying, because I often times forget things that friends or my girlfriend will tell me, and as you may imagine that causes problems (“What do you mean we’re going to so and so’s tonight…”, etc).

Lately though its been really bad. The other day when I was about halfway to work in the morning, I legitimately could not remember if I had even closed the front door to my house. This would’ve been problematic because my g/f is house sitting, so no one was still home, and we have two cats. I actually e-mailed my land lord and had her send someone to check (thankfully I had closed and locked the door). I often get inside somewhere, and stop to find myself wondering if I put the parking brake on in my car, afraid it’s rolling away as I ponder.

I’m beginning to think this may be more than absent mindedness and could be some legitimate problem. I am a very busy person. I haven’t worked less than 60 hours in roughly 3 years, often times exceeding that. Aside from that I have a band which usually takes up several hours a week as well. I have many student loans, which combined with my other bills leaves me with around 15 monthly bills to remember. I don’t get as much sleep as I would like too, and I don’t take the best care of myself (not overweight or anything, just not big on exercise or healthy eating). But all of these things have been long standing habits, and the memory issues have really only gotten bad maybe in the last year.

Frighteningly I can remember obscure historical facts, or stories from 10 years ago in my life, with ridiculous detail. A few weeks back I was driving with my g/f, and I’m not sure how I got started, but I ended up telling her in extreme detail the events surrounding the US presidential election of 1800. Complete with candidates, VP names, electoral college totals, etc, etc….I proceeded to forget where we were driving too after telling her the story.

What’s going on with my memory?

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9 Answers

tom_g's avatar

Don’t discount your busy schedule, stress, and sleep. I sleep about 5 hours (max) per night, have 3 kids, and with my wife in school I am basically a single dad right now. I have no time. I find that my memory is not what I’d like it to be.

One thing that I find helpful is to have a way to dump any concerns or “things I need to remember” immediately. As soon as a thought crosses my mind (“I need to remember to ____”), I immediately put it in my smartphone and I can stop my mind from having to keep this. It seems to free it up for other things. I have complex reminders/alarm systems that keep me moving forward through the chaos that is my life. This seems to help with remembering things because I’m delegating tasks to my phone.

gailcalled's avatar

Your brain, like the rest of you (and me) is aging.

One trick, other than being mindful (which means thinking only about one thing at a time) is to write stuff down.

If you are rushing out the door…underslept, jelly donut in hand, and plans for the office meeting rolling around your head…you will continue to be in a brain fog about something.

The other, is to take the extra 30 seconds, as you are leaving the house, leaving your car in a parking lot, or about to be launched into outer space, and think.

I used to lose my car regularly when I parked on Main St. Now, I don’t shut the door and hare off to my errands before I take a breath and focus.

A more Draconian solution is to cut back on your crazy life. Can you let a few things go? Are you doing yourself any favors living like this?

tedd's avatar

@gailcalled I get that I’m aging, but I’m only 27. If this is 27, I’m not looking forward to 57.

Unfortunately I can’t cut the work schedule at all, which is where the bulk of my time loss comes from.

gailcalled's avatar

@tedd: Then you have to work on your focus.

And you are correct; today is the best it’s going to be for you (and for the rest of us).

flutherother's avatar

A lot of the routine things we do are done on automatic pilot. Making breakfast, locking the flat, getting to work all require little or no conscious effort and leave little or no trace in our memories. It’s not that you don’t remember so much as you weren’t even aware at the time. You can train yourself to become aware of the more important things so that they don’t bug you later on. I used to force myself to be aware of turning the key in the lock when I left the house and now it has become a habit. I am never unsure now.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Inability to focus and impaired memory are two symptoms of stress. Didn’t you just ask a question about considering 2FT jobs?

Your symptoms are a prime example of why you might want to reconsider adding to your already stressful load.

Bellatrix's avatar

I also say it’s stress. I remember reading and answering your question about whether you should take on another job. You are already very busy and this really does impact on your memory. I know my own memory is impaired when I am really working under stress. I have to be much more vigilant about making lists of tasks I have to complete, about taking a sensible approach to prioritizing and really importantly, making some time for relaxation and fun. I really do find taking some time away from all the work stuff helps ease my stress and in turn my memory.

Perhaps plan a weekend or two where you don’t do anything but relax – whatever that means for you (not relaxing to someone else’s drum).

Unbroken's avatar

Well I agree destressing adding organization and getting more sleep and working on focus be very benefical.
One way to do that is slowly over time rather then tackling it all at once.
Examples like parking in the same place, I find there are usually spots in every parking lot that are ignored I park in those and when I am distracted I don’t end up wqandering around a parking lot.
Another quick effective method is brain entrainment, look up brave wave studies. This method is becoming recognized as an effective method and I wouldn’t recommend it if I had not tried it personally and found it effective. I use it to get the most of how much sleep I get. As well as increasing focus, for study, and destressing. It can take as little as 5 minutes, and you need it less often once you start.
Saying that there are seratonin and endorphin levels. Mainly I mean diet exercise. Tough one I know but you mentioned it in your question so you already see the connection.

Just try simple things start at 10 minutes of cardio, jumping jacks if you don’t have space equipment or time to go to gym, rebounding is fun takes up little space and only has ~80 start up cost.

As far as food goes replace one snack with vegies eg carrot/celery sticks, or bulk nuts and berry snacks you carry with you. Also stay hydrated.

Also and I wouldn’t say this is vital but if you are an animal or nature lover take time to pet an animal or buy one plant and care for it once a week.

And that triggers one more thought, self massage. a 10 minute foot or hand massage, say once a week, the Japanese use a loofah to wake up their skin and body pre shower massage. Stimulates blood flow wakes you up physically and mentally and self care helps you be present in the moment.
A lot of ideas, pick and choose what works for you.

yankeetooter's avatar

I think some of this at least is probably due to your overall busyness, lack of rest and stress. I find that the more stressed I am, the more I forget the simple, stupid stuff. Tiredness on top of stress only makes it worse. This morning, I think I applied my deodorant twice, because I simply couldn’t remember if I already had, lol! (And I wear unscented…)

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